Skip to main content

Hooks?

Hooks are maybe one of the most frustrating elements of writing. We need to hook on the first page, first paragraph, etc. We have to hook in our query. There seems to be endless requests for strong hooks. Which brings me to my post/question for today -- what hooks you?

I've read through the first few pages of my favorite books lately just analyzing the hooks. Want to know what they all have in common? They present a question. Not a true question with a question mark, but a question in the reader's mind and that question has to be answered. So, as a reader, I read on in hopes of getting my answer. I also think one similarity is that the initial question presented is always answered by the end of that first chapter. And many times the first chapter presents one or more questions that push the story forward.

Let's take Hunger Games as an example. The last line of the first paragraph reads: This is the day of the reaping.
Immediately we want to know what's a reaping? Why does it scare Prim? By the end of Chapter 1 we know and find that Prim has been chosen. What does that mean? What will happen to her? There are lots of questions presented by the end of Ch. 1.

More examples:

Savvy -- When my brother Fish turned thirteen, we moved to the deepest part of inland because of the hurricane and, of course, the fact that he'd caused it.
This is the first sentence!! The very first line of that book presents a question. How in the word could her brother cause a hurricane? By the end of Ch. 1 we know and now want to know what Mibs' savvy will be.

A Great and Terrible Beauty -- I am staring into the hissing face of a cobra.
This is the second line of the book. What? Why is she staring into a cobra's face? By the end of Ch. 1 we know and also know that Gemma hates it in India.

Grab your favorite books. What questions are presented in the opening paragraph/pages. Is that what pulled you into the story?

I just cut the first 2 pages of my first chapter after learning this lesson about hooks.

Previous first line:

I stepped up to bat as the sky burst open, blinding me to the incoming pitch.

No questions presented at all.

New first line:

"You don’t have to go in,” Mom said for tenth time since I arrived.

Now, this is rough and I may reword Mom's tag a bit, but with this one line I've presented two questions. Go in where? Arrived where? My hope is that this hooks the reader to want to know where they are and why my MC doesn't want to go inside, especially considering the next line involves my MC thinking to himself that he doesn't want to go in.

Check your first paragraph/page. Are you presenting questions? Are you hooking the reader?

M.B.

Comments

  1. OMG, fabulous timing! I just finished my first 'hook' assignment for CJs course. Holy cow, painful! But so useful. Now, you've clarified the importance even more, after all, the query should translate to the book itself. Thanks for the examples! Love that change in your first chapter, btw ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh I remember that part of the class! Glad you like the change. I'll probably send you the revised ch. 1 for the ten millionth time sometime this weekend! :) Haha!

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is so true. It can be really hard to get that first line right. I usually end up trashing my first line at least a few times. It's tricky!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Great post--you nailed why hooks are so important. Good hooks also mean that you can avoid an info dump in the opening and keep the pace up, because they pull the reader along by not giving everything away. :)

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

    ReplyDelete
  5. Andrea -- Yes, my poor Ch.1 has been sliced to pieces several times. :)

    Angela -- Thanks for stopping over. I totally agree with you regarding info dump. I cannot stand the info dump opener and end up flipping.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Ugh, hooks are hard. I'm in the midst of revising my middle so I'm sure that I will come back to my beginning and try to "re-hook it". Ha.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

GRAVITY e-book is Now Available!

Exciting news!

GRAVITY did have a book birthday yesterday after all—well technically today. It is now available in both Kindle and Nook formats! And check out these amazing blurbs for the book: "A thrilling debut packed with action and mystery. Aliens never looked so good."
USA TODAY Bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout.


"GRAVITY is a nonstop action thrill ride set in a richly imagined sci-fi version of earth, featuring a bold heroine who knows how to fight, just not who she should be fighting for. Start reading and you won't. Ever. Stop." Jennifer Bosworth, author of Struck (FSG/Macmillan)
~~~ The print version will be available online and in stores within a few weeks. But to celebrate the release of the e-book, I need your help to spread the word! And I have a few prizes available for participating.
Ways to play:
Tweet that the e-book is now available with links to GRAVITY’s Kindle and Nook e-books on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Must use hashtag #…

Make your readers uncomfortable

I have this one scene in TWISTED ROOT that is…intense. It is so intense that I’ve had reactions all over the place from my CP’s and betas.

Let me start by saying I have a ton of people read my work. An 8 person crit group, 2 crit partners, and 2 that I would say are alpha readers—friends who read tons and have strong editing backgrounds.

So I receive crits all over the place, and this scene has created some interesting responses. One critter went crazy for it, loved it. Another referred to it as slightly icky. I loved that response. :) Another blushed when we discussed it in person. And all of the male critters I have thought it was awesome—go figure. Men have a much higher threshold for uncomfortable-ness, than most women. (JMHO!!!)

Now I’m not saying I don’t adore all my readers. I do. I couldn’t write without them. Each one makes my work stronger. But here’s the thing, I’m keeping the scene, as it is (for now). Wanna know why?

I think as a writer you should make your reader uncomfortab…

Insta-LOVE

I’ve grown a little obsessed with Goodreads lately. Some reviewers seem to love everything, while others hate everything. The logic behind many of the reviews can be fairly funny to read. One such topic for YA has been “insta-love.” The reviews define the term as two characters meet and 20 pages later they’re madly in love, willing to give up their lives for one another.

While I think 20 pages is likely quick for the word “love,” I do not think it is too quick for obsession. Why? Because that is teen love. I have a 14-year-old niece who has a different boyfriend all the time it seems. One such boyfriend “cheated” on her—meaning he went to a movie with another girl—and she said “it was really hard because we were together so long.” So I asked her how long and she responded: “three weeks.” Yep, it took three whole weeks for my young niece to fall for some boy.
I think it is very important to remember our true audience when writing for YA. We are not writing for the 30-year-old women who…